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Build a Corporate Culture that Embraces Change

McChrystal in Afghanistan

McChrystal in Afghanistan

We wrote last week about how sustainable success comes best when you build an organizational culture that embraces change. The “norms” of the culture are not tied to the current processes and procedures that define day-to-day interactions, but tied to the idea that these are temporary solutions for current challenges that may need revision or replacement to meet future goals.

After posting that article, we came across a nice affirmation for our thesis from General Stan McChrystal (ret.), who put a post on LinkedIn about an “aha” moment he had while leading our forces in Afghanistan. Here is the quote we like the best:

“Constant change became the hallmark of our task force. We did not know what the end state would look like, and we took wrong turns along the way. But the task force’s leaders came to recognize that we had to make our culture allergic to complacency. We became obsessed with perfecting our organization’s model for communicating, making decisions, and acting effectively.

Most critically, from that point on we continued to adapt in order to make ourselves an increasingly interconnected and effective network.

Gen. McChrystal makes the point that you need to think like your “enemy” to “win.” We need a more general term than “enemy” to apply to our own world, so we translate that to “you need to think like your counterpart to get results.”

If you can obtain an understanding of the counterparty, you can adapt your behavior to make it easier for them to work with you. How do you obtain understanding of your counterparties?

  • With coworkers (all of them), you ask questions and listen to the answers. You value other ideas, and limit criticism.
  • With competitors, you talk to their customers, past employees (with a grain of salt: their experiences are rapidly aging!) and through market research.

Place yourself in the shoes of the counterparty. What are their issues? How can you help them help themselves over those hurdles? To what resources can you connect them?

You have to respect the legitimate priorities of others, and work to find out how your priorities can line up with theirs.

How has your collaboration been going with other departments? What obstacles could you remove if you invested a little more time looking at issues from their perspective and asking them to help you understand their positions on the issues and goals you share?

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